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Issa Issues Report Ripping Lois Lerner

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Darrell Issa has apologized to Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking Democrat Elijah E. Cummings for cutting off his mic, but the chairman isn’t changing the course of his committee.  

The California Republican issued a 141-page report Tuesday on the involvement of Lois Lerner, the former director of IRS exempt organizations, in the targeting of prospective tax-exempt organizations. The report, which did not have signoff from committee Democrats, concludes that Lerner “created unprecedented roadblocks for Tea Party organizations” and “worked surreptitiously to advance new Obama Administration regulations that curtail the activities of existing 501(c)(4) organizations.”  

From the report:

Most damning of all, even when she found that the actions of subordinates had not adhered to a standard that could be defended as not “per se political,” instead of immediately reporting this conduct to victims and appropriate authorities, Lerner engaged in efforts to cover it up.

The report includes loads of emails from Lerner and her colleagues that call into question her motives for applying stricter oversight to new 501(c)(4) organization applications — and some emails and information that simply reflect poorly on the retired head of Exempt Organizations.  

In one email chain titled “HMMMM?” Lerner writes, in discussing the desire to see a “proposed denial” for tax-exempt status go to court, that “these guys are itching for a Constitutional challenge. Not your father’s EO.”  

The emails released Tuesday paint a picture of an IRS with an agenda and aware of the potential political ramifications of its actions. Lerner writes that the tea party matter could be “very dangerous.” She forwards an article about “dark-money” from liberal news site Mother Jones. When a colleague sends her an article about conservative donors influencing Senate races, Lerner responds: “Perhaps the [Federal Election Commission] will save the day.”  

In another section of the report, titled “Lerner’s Management Style,” former IRS Acting Commissioner Chief of Staff Nikole Flax tells Oversight and Government Reform Committee staff that the IRS did not choose Lerner as a witness for a hearing because, “Lois is unpredictable. She’s emotional.”  

Flax was involved, according to the report, in an email conversation regarding how and when Lerner would bring up the IRS targeting issue. According to testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee, a question was planted in the audience during a Georgetown University Law Center conference.  

Flax advises Lerner to say that, in considering tax-exempt status applications, the IRS “placed too much reliance on the particular name of an organization,” like “tea party” or “patriot,” but that this was “an error — not a political vendetta.”  

The report also shows Lerner, all the way back in January of 2013, trying to figure out benefit issues if she were to retire in October 2013. Lerner retired on Sept. 23, 2013.  

Last week, Lerner refused to testify before the Oversight Committee, again invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Issa gaveled the committee out without letting Cummings make a statement or ask a question. The situation led to an awkward standoff between Issa and the Maryland Democrat, with Issa eventually instructing staff to cut off Cummings’s microphone. Issa apologized , but he still doesn’t appear excited about working with Democrats.  

Lerner could be held in contempt of Congress as early as this week.

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